Josiah Warren, The Motives for Communism—I

Josiah Warren, “The Motives for Communism—How It Worked and What It Led To,” Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, IV, 14 (February 17, 1872), 5.


Mesdames Editors: How often have I said to myself, “Oh, for a paper of world-wide circulation, through which we could pour into the public lap the most important results of our lives’ experience! That others who come after us may avoid the thorny paths that have lacerated our feet—may profit by our errors and successes. I hope and believe that your is, or will be, such a paper: and in it I propose to furnish a series of articles, showing the practical workings of Communism and other reform experiments running through the forty-six years devoted to peaceful social revolution; and it will be seen that some facts are more strange than fiction, more philosophical than philosophy, more romantic than romance and more conservative than conservatism.


When Robert Owen came to this country in 1825 I listened to some of his sublime discourses and read some of his publications, from which it appeared that, unless some peaceful revolution could be devised, the working classes, driven to starvation by machinery and destructive competition between themselves, would be compelled to choose between death by destitution and an effort to save themselves by violent revolution.

He showed us that in Communism, instead of working against each other as in competition, we should all work for each other while working for ourselves. A problem that had been profoundly considered by the wisest of our race, but which had always baffled the highest stretch of genius. It appeared that mutual help would beget mutual sympathy, or social harmony. That labor would be reduced to two or three hours a day, leaving abundance of leisure for new enterprises and general improvement. That the jealousies and antagonisms between the poor and the rich would be at an end, and a fellow feeling would grow up from equality of condition. No more horrible crimes, or punishments still more horrible. No more children crying for bread. No more suicides for fear of starvation. No more drunkenness from despair. No more prostitution to escape starvation. No more wars about the profits in trade nor for the privileges of governing, for the government was to consist of all above a certain age. The business of nations would not be the destruction of each other, but a mutual interchange of services beneficial to each.

Sick at heart with the habitual contemplation of the frauds and cruelties of men toward each other, and the miseries in different forms that had surrounded me from childhood, all growing out of the crudity of our civilization, and seeing no hope of change, I had, at the age of 23, become willing to shut my eyes forever; but here was a new sun arisen! and my young and ardent spirit grasped at it as at the breath of life. Mr. Owen had become a new god to me, and I said to myself, now I have an object worth living for!

I was not alone in these views and feelings; several excellent people of rare intelligence and thoughtful habits joined in a project to start a community in the neighborhood of Cincinnati.

The next article will show how it worked.

I would gladly avoid the imputation of egotism, but for the sake of giving definite responsibility, and as simple truth works better than anything short of it, and to put myself in communication with readers, I give my name and place of residence.

Josiah Warren,

Princeton, Mass.

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.